EVENT | New Year Stages Kirkistown

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Go hard or go home! Well the motorsport season in Northern is now officially opened with the New Year Stages held at Kirkistown Race circuit on January 18th 2014 and by no means was it an easy start to the season.

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You could have been forgiven for thinking this was an ‘underground’ meet or part of an exclusive race series, under invitation only, because as hard as I tried I could find no info about what was happening on the day.

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Upon giving up on trying to locate any information on the event I packed my camera gear early Saturday morning and left to head to Kirkistown Race Circuit. Since I had no idea of what time the event actually starts, it was a bit of a gamble and thankfully it was one that paid off.
 
Upon arrival I was expecting to have my many questions answered, but alas I remained in the dark – there were no stage times or layouts available as far as I could find, and to make the matters worse the rain kept falling like it was the rain season in the deepest Amazon jungles.

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At this point I was wet, cold, clueless and starting to feel a little sorry for myself. Self pity is one thing but it is more the drivers and mechanics I felt truly sorry for. The fact that they had to start the season in these weather conditions and without any shelter, I still wonder why the pits are not provided for the mechanics and drivers for free, but for this reason more than any is why the petrolheads are a diehard breed. It is all about the drive, the smell of fuel, the burning tires…

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Once the first car launches from the start line you do forget the frustration, the rain, the cold. My raincoat; the sound of a flat four, my Wellington boots; the ripping sound of anti lag and my umbrella is in the form a view to die for as fearless drivers seem to refuse to lift off as they go through even the deepest of puddles. This is a sport for the tough, the rough and the Autolifer. It feels like a case of last man standing – whether you are the driver, the co-driver, the mechanic, the photographer or the spectator.

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The reason why I always return to the New Year Stages Rally is to witness the cars that have been built/bought for the upcoming season with all the sweat and tears, blood and hard work that has been done over the dark December and this year was no different with Desie McCartney showcasing the new toy that happened to be my favourite from the day. There were cars for anybody’s taste – plenty of world rally cars to appreciate, including Subaru WRC S14, group N Evos, the classics like MKII Escorts, Anglia, Chevette etc.

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The stages were a true challenge with standing water, water puddles and slippery gravel sections accompanied probably with a poor visibility due to the terrestrial rain. Even though I didn’t witness any big crashes, I saw many drivers misjudging the grip and kissing the odd hay bale or two.

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The victory was claimed by Kieron Graffin/Paddy Robinson in their Mitsubishi Evo 10 with the total time of 29min 59.1sec followed by Paddy McVeigh/Graham Henderson in a Subaru S10 and third place went to George Robinson and Tommy Speers in a Mitsubishi Evo 9.

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Words: Reinis Babrovskis & David Murphy
Photos: Reinis Babrovskis
 

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